A surgeon’s pain: exercise guidelines to feel better

Posted on July 23, 2018

(Last Updated On: July 23, 2018)

This is a three part series:


Summarizing what we’ve learned so far

  • Surgeons, or doctors who specialize in procedures, are a seriously at-risk population for musculoskeletal degeneration, and pain
  • The prevalence of orthopedic problems has been increasing over time, due to a combination of population and environmental changes
  • This is an issue because surgeons are losing money, increasingly burnt out, and have no sign of relief on the horizon
  • The problem is primarily due to repetitive motion concerns, with motion intensity being a lesser, though relevant, concern
  • Exercise can help musculoskeletal pain…but it can also make it worse


Exercise as pain mitigator; not provocateur

In the world of orthopedics, one of the most common issues is the knee. Such as painful knees from running.

What is one of the simplest, yet most effective, treatments for a problematic running knee?

“Run less.”

That is, we don’t tell a marathoner the way to make their knee feel better is run more.

This provides the foundation for how we attack surgeon’s musculoskeletal problems. We find what they already do a lot of, and we sure as hell don’t do more of that while exercising.

But, we know exercise is one of the best modalities for our health! After all, we would never tell someone “stop moving.”


Let’s give three easy examples to grasp this idea. We’ll give an example at each of the most concerning body areas.

  • Neck
  • Shoulder
  • Lower back



We know doctors, dentists in particular, end up in this kind of position routinely:

Image credit: NerdWallet

In the world of personal training, we call that a forward head posture- the head is in front of the shoulders.

Alright, now let’s think about one of the most common exercises: push-ups. We wouldn’t want this going on:

Notice the similarities if we orient the images alike:

Ears well in front of the shoulders

We don’t have to necessarily get rid of push-ups, but we do need to pay closer attention to how we do them.



The elbow is often away from the torso when operating:

One of the most common gym exercises for the shoulder? Lateral raises:

Credit: WorkoutLabs

Why bother with that? We can work the shoulders other ways, which don’t necessitate repeating a motion surgeons already do a lot.


Lower back

We hit on this in part two. Surgeons spend an awful lot of time with a rounded spine and leaning forward:

So, when we bike, we wouldn’t want to be replicating that position:


More details

We’ve now covered the introduction to A Surgeon’s Exercise Guide.

In the guide we’ll go deeper into exercise dos and don’ts. Here is some of what we’ll cover,


Specific movements to be on the lookout for

We’ll go into more detail on the most common problematic positions and movements for surgeons.


Tying movements to exercise

The most common movements surgeons do provides our foundation for what we want to avoid while exercising.

  • Proper push-up technique
  • Shoulder exercises you should avoid, as well as how to make some of the most common ones, like bench pressing, feel better.
  • How to make the bike more lower back friendly
  • Which cardio exercise you should avoid
  • Shoulder and low back friendly squatting technique
  • Why you should avoid the most common ab exercises, and what to do instead
  • Corrective exercises for each body area
    • This is where we try to work on loosening what can become tight from performing surgery. (You could think of it as some stretches, but they aren’t like the traditional “hold for 30 seconds” ones.)


Modifying the rest of your day

As we went over, the advent of computers has drastically changed our work and leisure environments. In this section we’ll go over why surgeons should type and mouse a certain way.


Bonus section- modifying how you practice

This section will be light. I realize for many, unless you’re doing the activity, you don’t necessarily like hearing advice on how to do it. In other words, I’m sure surgeons love arm chair quarterbacks as much as anybody.

That said, we’ll give some points to consider when it comes to surgery technique, as well as your schedule.



This guide is light on anatomy. If I go heavy, the orthopedic surgeons will still think it’s too light, while the dentists will be thinking “Ugh, do I really have to brush up on anatomy 101?” Point being, by keeping it light, it puts everybody on the same playing field. If you want more details behind anything though, just shoot me an email and we can go as in-depth as you like.

The guide is very much a “do it this way; not that way.” It’s meant to be immediately applicable, from someone (me) who has worked with a good deal of dentists, surgeons, doctors, technicians. Someone who has even been in multiple operating rooms to observe surgical technique.

The goal is to use examples to get across a few basic principles. We can’t cover every exercise. Nobody wants to read that. You’re busy enough as it is.

-> If you feel like you want a very specific guide, such as a “Tell me what to do. Exercises, sets, reps, days per week, etc.” this is where you want to start.

Lastly, if you’re young, you might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you. Odds are, at some point, it will. The sooner you start intervening, the better. I’d highly encourage you to ask some older surgeon’s how their body feels! Many will tell you they wish they started taking better care of themselves sooner.

The guide is $20. It comes as a password protected link to your email:

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If you want examples of people I’ve helped, check out my testimonials and results page.


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